There’s nothing quite like getting a handwritten letter in the mail. There’s a beauty in the anticipation of waiting for a letter, thinking about someone without an immediate interaction in return, and in savoring the written words of a friend that electronic communication really can’t match. Unfortunately, letters are becoming less and less common as a form of regular communication. Nonetheless, letter writing is a skill in and of itself, and it even allows for practice of other skills and encourages a variety of other interests. Having a pen pal is a great way for your child to practice letter writing both as a necessary skill and an art form. If you haven’t considered incorporating letter writing into your homeschool living, now is the time to reach out to your friends, family, or homeschool or community groups to find a pen pal for your child–and maybe even for yourself! Check out this Homeschool Living to discover five benefits of having pen pals.
One of the most obvious benefits of writing to a pen pal is the opportunity it provides to practice the art of letter writing. But far beyond that, it allows children to learn how to organize this written social interaction. Carrying on what is essentially an extended conversation through letters teaches children how to communicate their thoughts and emotions, tell stories about events in their lives, express interest in another person’s life, and more. It also moves away from the instant gratification culture reinforced by instant communications like text and email. The social benefits of interacting with a pen pal in writing help the writers learn to communicate clearly in social–and business–interactions, which they’ll reap the rewards of for the rest of their lives. Check out this guide to pen pal letter writing from Homeschool Notes for a simple guide to teaching your child how to begin a pen pal relationship.
With the advent of electronic communication, the importance of handwriting can be easy to overlook. It can even seem unnecessary in a world in which nearly all written communication is typed. Check out these 12 reasons why handwriting is important–it’s far deeper than being able to scribble a legible grocery list!–and then consider your child’s letter writing a lovely exercise in handwriting practice.
Having a pen pal in another country can be both excellent incentive and practice for learning a new language. Writing and reading in a foreign language–though difficult at times–give the brain time to slow down and comprehend the language. Taking the time to look up and learn new words that verbal practice doesn’t always allow can build confidence by seeing, writing, and sounding out words one might stumble over while speaking. Foreign language skills will progress over time, as noted in this article by a woman who met her best friend through a foreign language pen pal program!
Another benefit of writing to a pen pal in another state, country, or continent, is the natural way it encourages curiosity and empathy. Seeing the world through someone else’s perspective; finding common ground in beliefs, interests, or goals; and celebrating differences and diversity in cultures fosters empathy as children learn to communicate effectively with someone who may, on the surface, be very different from themselves. Discovering other cultures and communicating the aspects of your child’s culture that matter most to him or her, as well as learning about someone else’s interests, hobbies, and daily life, can lead to lessons about different states and countries that will naturally incorporate history, geography, social studies, art–and more!–as your child asks questions pertaining to different areas and events that have occurred where their pen pals live.
A fifth, somewhat unexpected benefit of writing to pen pals, is the creativity it inspires! Whether your child loves to make up stories, draw pictures, or make small crafts to include with a letter, you’ll be surprised at the bond that can be created through sharing these creative gifts. Check out this list of ideas for things to send to a pen pal that can help express creativity, represent your child and his or her community, and foster a connection that can span untold years and miles.
It can be hard to find a trusted pen pal to whom your child can write. One of the great things about social media is the connections we might have around the globe. Reach out to friends or relatives who don’t live near you. Chances are, if they don’t have a child of a suitable age to be your child’s pen pal, they have a friend who does. Becoming pen pals with a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or faraway cousin is another great way to connect, with the added benefit of sharing and recording family history through the multi-generational letter writing. Check out this article from SheKnows for some more great tips on finding a pen pal for your child.